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Father And Son







From: Jewel

When later they were alone, the girl looked at her mother, her eyes
luminous.

"You see," she began rather breathlessly, "even you must see, he is
beginning to drive us away."

"I do hope, Eloise, you are not going to indulge in any heroics over
this affair," returned Mrs. Evringham, who had braced herself to meet an
attack. "Does the unpleasant creature suppose we would stay with him if
we were not obliged to?"

"If we are obliged to, which I don't admit, need you demand further
favors than food and shelter? How could you speak of Essex Maid! How can
you know in your inmost heart, as you do, that we are eating the bread
of charity, and then ask for the apple of his eye!" exclaimed Eloise
desperately.

"Go away with your bread and apples," responded Mrs. Evringham
flippantly. "I have a real worry now that that wretched little cousin of
yours is coming."

"She is not my cousin please remember," responded the girl bitterly.
"Mr. Evringham reminded us of that to-night."

"Now don't you begin calling him Mr. Evringham!" protested her mother.
"You don't want to take any notice of the man's absurdities. You will
only make matters worse."

"No, I shall go on saying grandfather for the little while we stay.
Otherwise, he would know his words were rankling. It will be a little
while? Oh mother!"

Mrs. Evringham pushed the pleading hand away. "I can't tell how long it
will be!" she returned impatiently. "We are simply helpless until your
father's affairs are settled. I thought I had told you that, Eloise.
He worshipped you, child, and no matter what that old curmudgeon says,
Lawrence would wish us to remain under his protection until we see our
way clear."

"Won't you have a business talk with him, so we can know what we have to
look forward to?" The girl's voice was unsteady.

"I will when the right time comes, Eloise. Can't you trust your mother?
Isn't it enough that we have lost our home, our carriages, all our
comforts and luxuries, through this man's bad judgment--"

"You will cling to that!" despairingly.

"And have had to come out to this Sleepy Hollow of a place, where life
means mere existence, and be so poor that the carfare into New York is
actually a consideration! I'm quite satisfied with our martyrdom as
it is, without pinching and grinding as we should have to do to live
elsewhere."

"Then you don't mean to attempt to escape?" returned Eloise in alarm.

"Hush, hush, Goosie. We will escape all in good time if we don't succeed
in taming the bear. As it is, I have to work single handed," dropping
into a tone of reproach. "You are no help at all. You might as well be
a simpering wax dummy out of a shop window. I would have been ashamed at
your age if I could not have subjugated any man alive. We might have had
him at our feet weeks ago if you had made an effort."

"No, no, mother," sadly. "I saw when we first came how effusiveness
impressed him, and I tried to behave so as to strike a balance--that
is, after I found that we were here on sufferance and not as welcome
guests."

"Pshaw! You can't tell what such a hermit is thinking," returned Mrs.
Evringham. "It is the best thing that could happen to him to have us
here. Dr. Ballard said so only to-day. What is troubling me now is this
child of Harry's. I was sure by father's tone when he first spoke of her
that he would not even consider such an imposition."

"I think he did feel so," returned Eloise, her manner quiet again. "That
was an example of the way you overreach yourself. The word presumption
on your lips applied to uncle Harry determined grandfather to let the
child come."

"You think he really has sent for her then!" exclaimed Mrs. Evringham.
"You think that is what the telegram meant! I'm sure of it, too." Then
after a minute's exasperated thought, "I believe you are right. He is
just contrary enough for that. If I had urged him to let the little
barbarian come, he couldn't have been induced to do so. That wasn't
clever of me!" The speaker made the admission in a tone which implied
that in general her cleverness was unquestioned. "Well, I hope she will
worry him out of his senses, and I don't think there is much doubt of
it. It may turn out all for the best, Eloise, after all, and lead him
to appreciate us." Mrs. Evringham cast a glance at the mirror and patted
her waved hair. "And yet I'm anxious, very anxious. He might take a
fancy to the girl," she added thoughtfully.

"I'm such a poor-spirited creature," remarked Eloise.

"What now?"

"I ought to be strong enough to leave you since you will not come; to
leave this roof and earn my own living, some way, any way; but I'm too
much of a coward."

"I should hope so," returned her mother briefly. "You'd soon become one
if you weren't at starting. Girls bred to luxury, as you have been, must
just contrive to live well somehow. They can't stand anything else."

"Nonsense, mother," quietly. "They can. They do."

"Yes, in books I know they do."

"No, truth is stranger than fiction. They do. I have been looking for
that sort of stamina in myself for weeks, but I haven't found it. It is
a cruel wrong to a girl not to teach her to support herself."

"My dear! You were going to college. You know you would have gone had it
not been for your poor father's misfortunes."

Eloise's eyes filled again at the remembrance of the young, gay man who
had been her boon companion since her babyhood, and at the memory of
those last sad days, when she knew he had agonized over her future even
more than over that of his volatile wife.

"My dear, as I've told you before, a girl as pretty as you are should
know that fortune cannot be unkind, nor the sea of life too rough. In
each of the near waves of it you can see a man's head swimming toward
you. You don't know the trouble I have had already in silencing those
who wished to speak before you were old enough. They could any of them
be summoned now with a word. Let me see. There is Mr. Derwent--Mr.
Follansbee--Mr. Weeks--"

"Hush, mother!" ejaculated the girl in disgust.

"Exactly. I knew you would say they were too old, or too bald, or too
short, or too fat. I've been a girl myself. Of course there is Nat
Bonnell, and a lot more little waves and ripples like him, but they
always were out of the question, and now they are ten times more so.
That is the reason, Eloise," the mother's voice became impressive to
the verge of solemnity, "why I feel that Dr. Ballard is almost a
providence."

The girl's clear eyes were reflective. "Nat Bonnell is a wave who
wouldn't remember a girl who had slipped out of the swim."

"Very wise of him," returned Mrs. Evringham emphatically. "He
can't afford to. Nat is--is--a--decorative creature, just as you
are,--decorative. He must make it pay, poor boy."

Meanwhile Mrs. Forbes had sought her son in the barn. He and she had had
their supper in time for her to be ready to wait at dinner.

"Something doing, something doing," murmured Zeke as he heard the
impetuosity of her approaching step.

"That soup was hot!" she exclaimed defiantly.

"Somebody scald you, ma? I can do him up, whoever he is," said Zeke,
catching up a whip and executing a threatening dance around the dimly
lighted barn.

His mother's snapping eyes looked beyond him. "He said it was cold; but
it was only because he was distracted. What do you suppose those people
are up to now? Trying to get Essex Maid for Mamzell to ride!"

Zeke stopped in his mad career and returned his mother's stare for a
silent moment. "And not a dungeon on the place probably!" he exclaimed
at last. "Just like some folks' shiftlessness."

"They asked it. They asked Mr. Evringham if that girl couldn't ride
Essex Maid while he was in the city!"

'Zekiel lifted his eyebrows politely. "Where are their remains to be
interred?" he inquired with concern.

"Well, not in this family vault, you may be sure. He gave it to them
to-night for a fact." Mrs. Forbes smiled triumphantly. "'I didn't know
Eloise remembered her father,'" she mimicked. "I'll bet that got under
their skin!"

"Dear parent, you're excited," remarked Zeke.

She brought her reminiscent gaze back to rest upon her son. "Get your
coat quick, 'Zekiel. Here's the telegram. Take the car that passes the
park gate, and stop at the station. That's the nearest place."

Ezekiel obediently struggled into the coat hanging conveniently near.
"What does the telegram say?--'Run away, little girl, the ogre isn't
hungry'?"

"Not much! She's coming. He's sending for the brat."

"Poor brat! How did it happen?"

"Just some more of my lady's doings," answered Mrs. Forbes angrily. "Of
course she had to put in her oar and exasperate Mr. Evringham until he
did it to spite her."

"Cutting off his own nose to spite his face, eh?" asked Zeke, taking the
slip of paper.

"Yes, and mine. It's going to come heavy on me. I could have shaken that
woman with her airs and graces. Catch her or Mamzell lifting their
hands!"

"Yet they want her, do they?"

"No, Stupid! That's why she's coming. Can't you understand?"

"Blessed if I can," returned the boy as he left the barn; "but I know
one thing, I pity the kid."



Mr. Evringham received a prompt answer to his message. His son
appointed, as a place of meeting, the downtown hotel where he and his
wife purposed spending the night before sailing.

Father and son had not met for years, and Mr. Evringham debated a few
minutes whether to take the gastronomic and social risk of dining with
Harry en famille at the noisy hotel above mentioned, or to have dinner
in assured comfort at his club--finally deciding on the latter course.

It was, therefore, nearly nine o'clock before his card was presented to
Mr. and Mrs. Harry, to whom it brought considerable relief of mind, and
they hastened down to the dingy parlor with alacrity.

"You see we thought you might accept our invitation to dinner," said
Harry heartily, as he grasped his parent's passive hand; "but your
business hours are so short, I dare say you have been at home since the
middle of the afternoon." As he spoke the hard lines of his father's
impassive face smote him with a thousand associations, many of them
bringing remorse. He wondered how much his own conduct had had to do
with graving them so deeply.

His wife's observant eyes were scanning this guardian of her child
from the crown of his immaculate head to the toes of his correct patent
leathers. His expressionless eyes turned to her. "This is your wife?" he
asked, again offering the passive hand.

"Yes, father, this is Julia," responded Harry proudly. "I'm sorry the
time is so short. I do want you to know her."

The young man's face grew eloquent.

"That is a pleasure to come," responded Mr. Evringham mechanically. He
turned stiffly and cast a glance about. "You brought your daughter, I
presume?"

"Yes, indeed," answered Mrs. Evringham. "Harry was so glad to receive
your permission. We had made arrangements for her provisionally with
friends in Chicago, but we were desirous that she should have this
opportunity to see her father's home and know you."

Mr. Evringham thought with regret of those friends in Chicago. Many
times in the last two days he had deeply repented allowing himself to be
exasperated into thus committing himself.

"Do sit down, father," said Harry, as his wife seated herself in the
nearest chair.

Mr. Evringham hesitated before complying. "Well," he said perfunctorily,
"you have gone into something that promises well, eh Harry?"

"It looks that way. I'm chiefly occupied these days in being thankful."
The young man smiled with an extraordinary sweetness of expression,
which transfigured his face, and which his father remembered well as
always promising much and performing nothing. "I might spend a lot of
time crying over spilt milk, but Julia says I mustn't,"--he glanced
across at his wife, whose dark eyes smiled back,--"and what Julia says
goes. I intend to spend a year or two doing instead of talking."

"It will answer better," remarked his father.

"Yes, sir," Harry's voice grew still more earnest. "And by that time,
perhaps, I can express my regret to you, for things done and things left
undone, with more convincingness."

The older man made a slight gesture of rejection with one well-kept
hand. "Let bygones be bygones," he returned briefly.

"When I think," pursued Harry, his impulsive manner in strange contrast
to that of his listener, "that if I had been behaving myself all this
time, I might have seen dear old Lawrence again!"

Mr. Evringham kept silence.

"How are Madge and Eloise? I thought perhaps Madge might come in and
meet us at the train."

"They are in the best of health, thank you. Eh--a--I think if you'll
call your daughter now we will go. It's rather a long ride, you know.
No express trains at this hour. When you return we will have more of a
visit."

Harry and his wife exchanged a glance. "Why Jewel is asleep," answered
the young man after a pause. "She was so sleepy she couldn't hold her
eyes open."

"You mean you've let her go to bed?" asked Mr. Evringham, with a not
very successful attempt to veil his surprise and annoyance.

"Why--yes. We supposed she would see us off, you know."

"Your memory is rather short, it strikes me," returned his father. "You
sail at eight A.M., I believe. Did you think I could get in from Bel-Air
at that hour?"

"No. I thought you would naturally remain in the city over night. You
used to stay in rather frequently, didn't you?"

"I've not done so for five years; but you couldn't know that. Is it out
of the question to dress the child again? I hope she is too healthy to
be disturbed by a trifle like that."

Mrs. Evringham cast a startled look at her father-in-law. "It would
disappoint Jewel very much not to see us off," she returned.

Mr. Evringham shrugged his shoulders. "Let it go then. Let it go," he
said quickly.

Harry's plain face had grown concerned. "Is Mrs. Forbes with you still?"
he asked.

"Oh, yes. I couldn't keep house without Mrs. Forbes. Well," rising, "if
you young people will excuse me, I believe I will go to the club and
turn in."

"Couldn't you stand it here one night, do you think?" asked Harry,
rising. "The club is rather far uptown for such an early start."

"No. I'll be on hand. I'm used to rising early for a canter. I'll take
it with a cab horse this time. That will be all the difference." And
with this attempt at jocularity, Mr. Evringham shook hands once more and
departed, swallowing his ill-humor as best he could. Any instincts of
the family man which might once have reigned in him had long since been
inhibited. This episode was a cruel invasion upon his bachelor habits.

Left alone, Harry and his wife without a word ascended to their room
and with one accord approached the little bed in the corner where their
child lay asleep.

The man took his wife's hand. "I've done it now, Julia," he said
dejectedly. "It's my confounded optimism again."

"Your optimism is all right," she returned, smoothing his hand gently,
though her heart was beating fast, and the vision of her father-in-law,
with his elegant figure and cold eyes, was weighing upon her spirit.

Harry looked long on the plain little sleeping face, so like his own in
spite of its exquisite child-coloring, and bending, touched the tossed,
straight, flaxen hair.

"We couldn't take her, I suppose?" he asked.

"No," replied the yearning mother quietly. "We have prayed over it. We
must know that all will be right."

"His bark is worse than his bite," said Harry doubtfully. "It always
was; and Mrs. Forbes is there."

"You say she is a kind sort of woman?"

"Why, I suppose so," uncertainly. "I never had much to do with her."

"And your sister? Isn't it very strange that she didn't come in to meet
us? I was so certain I should put Jewel into her hands I feel a little
bewildered."

"You're a trump!" ejaculated Harry hotly, "and you've married into a
family where they're scarce. Madge might have met us at the train, at
least."

"Perhaps she is very sad over her loss," suggested Julia.

"In the best of health. Father said so. Oh well, she never was anything
but a big butterfly and Eloise a little one. I remember the last time
I saw the child, a pretty fairy with her long pink silk stockings. She
must have been just about the age of Jewel."

The mother stooped over the little bed and the dingy room looked
pleasanter for her smile. "Jewel hasn't any pink silk stockings," she
murmured, and kissed the warm rose of the round cheek.

The little girl stirred and opened her eyes, at first vaguely, then with
a start.

"Is it time for the boat?" she asked, trying to rise.

Her father smoothed her hair. "No, time to go to sleep again. We're just
going to bed. Good-night, Jewel." He stooped to kiss her, and her arms
met around his neck.

"It was an April fool, wasn't it?" she murmured sleepily, and was
unconscious again.

The mother hid her face for a moment on her husband's shoulder. "Help
me to feel that we're doing right," she whispered, with a catch in her
breath.

"As if I could help you, Julia!" he returned humbly.

"Oh, yes, you can, dear." She withdrew from his embrace, and going to
the dresser, took down her hair. The smiling face of a doll looked up at
her from the neighboring chair, where it was sitting bolt upright. Her
costume was fresh from the modiste, and her feet, though hopelessly
pigeon-toed, were encased in bronze boots of a freshness which caught
the dim gaslight with a golden sheen.

Mrs. Evringham smiled through her moist eyes.

"Well, Jewel was sleepy. She forgot to undress Anna Belle," she said.

Letting her hair fall about her like a veil, she caught up the doll and
pressed it to her heart impulsively. "You are going to stay with her,
Anna Belle! I envy you, I envy you!" she whispered. An irrepressible
tear fell on the sumptuous trimming of the little hat. "Be good to her;
comfort her, comfort her, little dolly." Hastily wiping her eyes, she
turned to her husband, still holding the doll. "We shall have to be very
careful, Harry, in the morning. If we are harboring one wrong or fearful
thought, we must not let Jewel know it."

"Oh, I wish it were over! I wish the next month were over!" he replied
restively.





Next: Bon Voyage

Previous: Mother And Daughter



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